The Backyard FAQ

Q- What do I do if I find a baby bird?

A - One of the most common questions each spring and early summer is what to do with a baby bird when it has fallen from the nest.

Start by looking for signs of injury. If the bird is injured take it to a local veterinarian or call your local game warden or conservation department for the name and telephone number of the nearest wildlife rehabilitator. (Carry it in a small enclosed box, such as a shoe box, lined with paper towels. Place a few holes in the box for ventilation.) If you're having trouble finding a wildlife rehabilitator in your area go to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Information Directory.

If the bird is uninjured the best option is to place it back in its nest. Nests are often hard to find so you may have to spend some time looking. If the bird can support itself then place it on a small branch or limb. If it is too small to support itself then try making a small nest of grass/weed clippings. The chances are good the parent bird will continue to care for the baby bird even if it is out of the nest.


Q - I want to start feeding birds in my back yard. Which type of feeder should I buy and what is the best kind of bird feed?
Carol Gordon - Irving, Texas

A - Black-oil sunflower seed is the best all around choice for feed. It is enjoyed by a variety of species and is readily available. Be sure to keep stored portions of the sunflower in a dry, sealed container.

There are several good choices for a feeder. You can make your own platform feeder or purchase one locally. A hopper style feeder can either be placed on a post or hung from a tree. Hopper style feeders do not need to be refilled as often as platform feeders.

As you develop your feeding area you may want to increase the variety of feeder styles and types of feed to attract different kinds of birds. Visit the ABC's of Bird Watching and Bird Feeding for additional information.


Q - Is it better to use purchased hummingbird nectar, which is red in color, or can I make my own? What should I use to make the nectar a red color?
Mark Daniels - Houston, Texas

A - The best feed for hummingbirds is probably just a simple mixture of sugar water. The commercial products work fine but you can make your own and it is not necessary or maybe even desirable to color the water. Your feeder can have the bright colors necessary to attract the hummers.

To make your own, mix 1/4 cup of sugar with each cup of water. Bring the water to a boil, then remove the mixture from the heat. You may have to stir the mixture to ensure the sugar dissolves.


Q - I have had purple martins for about 5 years but they did not come back this year. What is the most likely reason?

A - There are many possible causes. One of the following might apply.

  • The style or location of the martin house changed from last year.
  • Trees may have grown up near the martin house or new homes in the area may have restricted the clear fly space that purple martins prefer.
  • Aggressive non-native species such as house sparrows or starlings might have driven the martins away.
  • The birds might not have survived the winter and migration.

Visit the Purple Martin pages for more information and assistance in attracting purple martins back next year.

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